Minister reminds bus drivers to take breaks on freeway rides

Taipei--Taiwan's transportation minister encouraged bus drivers on Saturday to make greater use of rest facilities at service areas along the country's freeways.

Speaking at one such service area in northern Taiwan along National Freeway No. 1, Ho Chen Tan (???) said the areas serve bus drivers' need to take a short rest after driving for a while.

Taking a short break will help reduce fatigue and make bus travel safer, he said, urging tour bus or long-haul bus drivers to take advantage of the facilities more. He also hoped that more rest stops will include beds to allow drivers to take a quick nap.

Ho Chen's appeal came after a tour bus crashed off an exit ramp connecting Freeway No. 5 and Freeway No. 3 in the Nangang District in eastern Taipei on Feb. 13, killing 33 people on board, including the driver.

Though the investigation into the crash is still ongoing, there has been speculation that driver fatigue from being overworked was the cause of the crash.

To date, special rest facilities for bus drivers are available at 10 of the 14 service areas on Taiwan's freeways, according to the National Freeway Bureau.

In the Hukou service area in Hsinchu County for example, there are seven beds for men and four for women along with shower rooms, and about 1,400 people use the rest facility there every month on average, the bureau said.

The drivers' rest facility is mainly for tour and long-haul bus drivers, the bureau said, but drivers of private passenger cars can apply to use the facility if there is any availability, it added.

Ho Chen's visit to the Hukou service area came on the first day of a four-day long weekend holiday.

He arrived at the service area about one hour later than scheduled due to a traffic jam, and said the congestion was probably caused by people wanting to travel to southern Taiwan to get away from the wet, cold weather in the northern part of the island.

The transportation minister admitted that the traffic was worse than he had expected, and urged the public to take buses instead of driving themselves.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel